The Stephenville Yellow Jackets baseball squad has had a few losses lately, but the most difficult setback was losing their No. 1 pitcher, senior right-hander Easton Jones, for the season.
Head coach Justin Swenson found out after Jones had an MRI last Tuesday, March 6, that he has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar ligament in his right elbow. Jones had first injured the elbow in a summer-league baseball game last year.
After Jones had stem-cell treatment on the elbow, he made a dramatic and highly successful comeback early in the 2017 football season. He was voted Offensive Most Valuable Player in District 3-4A, Division I, as a third-year starter at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets, leading the team to the Class 4A state semifinals with a 12-3 record.
Jones, who recently signed a letter-of-intent to play football at Tyler College, also hoped to play college baseball, Swenson noted. But with the injury, Jones has decided to undergo a special procedure known as “Tommy John surgery” to replace the damaged ligament with a healthy one. Swenson said the surgery is set for March 26, and Jones won’t be able to throw again for up to 14 months.
With Jones’ high school career now over, the Jackets will carry on with junior Mason Castleberry and sophomore Daniel Luna as their top two starting pitchers. There are now only four seniors on the roster.
On top of that permanent loss, the Jackets also had a temporary loss when catcher Cody Storrs suffered a concussion in the first game of the Wimberly High School tournament, a 13-4 loss to Magnolia last Thursday.
As he was sliding into second base, a throw by Magnolia’s shortstop struck Storrs in the head. Storrs underwent the school’s concussion protocol testing, and will likely be out of action two weeks.
Both Jones and Storrs earned all-state baseball honors last season.
“Two all-state players on the shelf — that’s kind of a big hit,” Swenson said of losing Jones and Storrs. “The two guys have worked so hard to get where they were at. We will miss their leadership.”
In Stephenville’s games Friday at Wimberly, the Jackets fell to Llano, 4-3, and to Fredericksburg, 9-0.
On Saturday the Jackets tied Wimberly 2-2 when the game was halted by the tournament’s two-hour game limit in the sixth inning. They closed out the three-day round robin tournament Saturday with a 10-7 win over Burnet.
Swenson said that the tournament featured some tough competition. The Jackets faced a Magnolia pitcher who has signed to play baseball with TCU, and a Fredericksburg hurler who has signed with Baylor. Both throw in the mid-90s, he noted.
“We saw some stuff we hadn’t seen before, and probably won’t see again,” Swenson said. “It was a big-time tournament — a lot of competition. We were competitive in every game but one. Wimberly is in the top 15 in 4A.”
Against Burnet, the Jackets gained a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but Burnet picked up five in the second and one in the third for a 6-4 advantage.
Then the Jackets plated four more runs in the bottom of the third and they took an 8-6 lead.
After Burnett added a run in the fourth, SHS extended its lead with one run in the fifth and sixth.
Kade Averhoff led the Jackets at the plate in that game, going 2-for-3 including a double, and driving in three runs.
Starter Gabe Moore pitched 3-2/3 innings and got the win on the mound for SHS, and Derek Gifford worked 2-1/3 in relief.
In the tie with Wimberly, the Jackets erased a 1-0 deficit with a pair of runs in the top of the third. Wimberly tied it with one in the bottom of the third. The Jackets had six hits while Wimberly had nine.
Moore went 1-for-3 at the plate and drove in both SHS runs.
In the Fredericksburg game, the Jackets gave up four in the first, two in the second and third and one in the fourth. They were out-hit 12-2.
SHS starter Zane Smith worked the first three innings and took the loss. Cade Dunavent relieved him in the fourth.
In the loss to Llano, the game was tied at 3 until the Jackets allowed the winning run to cross the plate in the bottom of the fourth. Each team had eight hits.
Averhoff was the starter and Caleb Smith relieved him, both working three innings.
The Jackets (5-6-2 on the season) were scheduled to open District 8-4A play last night (Tuesday) at home against Venus. Their next game is set for 2 p.m. Friday, at Midlothian Heritage.